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Calls for judge to resign over 'Neanderthal' comment on Travellers

Pavee Point says it would be difficult for Travellers to have confidence that they could get a fair trial under the judge after his comments.

Protesters calling for Travellers to be recognised as a minority ethnic group in Irish society in 2009
Protesters calling for Travellers to be recognised as a minority ethnic group in Irish society in 2009
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for a District Court judge to resign after he described Travellers as being “Neanderthal men… abiding by the laws of the jungle”.

Mr Justice Seamus Hughes, a former Fianna Fáil TD,  is reported as criticising a defendant who appeared before Athlone District Court, saying:

Nobody has indicated it to me, but I suspect he comes from a certain ethnic background that would give him even more form given the type of behaviour in which some of them engage… As I’ve described it before, they are like Neanderthal men living in the long grass, abiding by the laws of the jungle.

Pavee Point, an advocacy group for Travellers, said that it would be difficult for Travellers to believe that they could get a fair trial under Judge Hughes following the comments.

“Judge Hughes should resign with immediate effect as he is bringing the judicial system into disrepute,” Pavee Point said in a statement condemning the comments.

“[His comments] reflect a prehistoric mind-set that has no place in modern Irish society. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial irrespective of your ethnic origin or the charges you face”.

The group called on the legal profession and the government to speak out about the issue and to identify ways to ensure that it does not happen again.

Judge Seamus Hughes previously made the the news in July 2011 when he said that recipients of social welfare should be given food vouchers to stop them from spending money on drink and drugs.

The judge also previously sentenced a man to climb Croagh Patrick for verbally assaulting a garda.

Originally from Mayo, Seamus Hughes served as a Fianna Fáil TD from 1992 to 1997.

Previously: Judge: Dole recipients should get food vouchers instead >

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